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Alumni · Nicole Laidler

A Taste for Adventure

Mar 9, 2016


Skai Dalziel, HBA ’04, finds the road less travelled leads to a Canadian first.

When Skai Dalziel, HBA ’04, graduated from Ivey, he set out to see the world. As a certified kitesurfing instructor, opportunities were plentiful and Dalziel spent four years working and travelling to exotic locations like Hawaii, Vietnam and the Philippines.

By the time he came home to Barrie, Ontario in 2008, the recession was in full  swing. “The timing was pretty horrible to be looking for a job,” says Dalziel. But it was the perfect time to create one. 

Dalziel teamed up with childhood friend and fellow traveller, Joe Facciolo, and in November of that year, the duo launched Whistler Tasting Tours—providing guided restaurant tours in Whistler. “It’s essentially a high-end pub tour, where people can enjoy a multi-course dinner, and each course happens at a different restaurant,” Dalziel explains.

With one successful business under their belts, the partners decided it was time for another adventure

“We were in and out of restaurants all the time and saw the challenge they had when someone would call and try to order a bottle of wine for a table,” Dalziel says.

Their solution? Guusto, a free mobile gifting app that lets users instantly buy others food and drinks at any one of Guusto’s 1,000 partner restaurants located in more than 250 cities across Canada. As an added bonus, each time a gift is sent, the company donates one day of clean drinking water to someone in need through the ONE DROP Foundation.

This September, the partners took another leap into the unknown when Guusto became the first Canadian company to close a round of financing through equity crowdfunding. Working with Vancouver-based financing platform FrontFundr, Guusto leveraged the support of loyal clients to successfully raise $50,000—double their original target.

Dalziel explains that new regulations allow people to buy up to $1,500 in shares through an approved funding portal. “In other parts of the world, equity crowdfunding has totally changed the game for startups,” he notes.

As an example, Dalziel says that around 30 per cent of early stage financing  in the United Kingdom is now completed  through equity crowdfunding portals, helping young companies bridge the gap  between “friends-and-family” financing and the venture capitalists.

Now based in Vancouver, Dalziel says his Ivey HBA education has been key to his success as an entrepreneur. “There’s no template to run a small startup business like ours. A lot of what we are doing is brand new,” he notes. “Ivey’s Case-Method Learning really prepares you for the unknowns of the business world, where you need to make the best decision with the information you have and just keep moving forward.”

Being able to reach out to other Ivey alumni has also helped Guusto develop relationships with some of the largest players in the Canadian restaurant scene. “Having that common experience to build on, in terms of building partnerships, has been a huge help,” he says.

Photo: Brett Beadle
Art Direction: Greg Salmela, Aegis